Thursday, June 2, 2022

Mass Shootings At Public Schools--A Continuing Problem


Immediately after the mass shooting, David and Lauren were picked up by their parents and taken home.
But quickly David announced he was going back to the school, saying, “I have to go. I need to tell the reporters what happened.” Against his parent’s wishes he returned to Parkland High School to help get out the tragic news. During the very attack itself he’d felt his feelings moving from fear into a determination for doing what he could to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. 
David and Lauren co-wrote a readable, emotionally touching, and inspiring book: #NEVERAGAIN: A NEW GENERATION DRAWS THE LINE in (2018). It is a beautiful little book, a useful book, and it includes two appendices:
  • A well thought out “Parkland Manifesto” of recommendations for what to be done to preventing future mass shootings.
  • A listing of the 50 school mass shootings from Columbine in 2003 forward, naming those who died, accompanied by quotations about each of victim to personalize their unique life. So, they would not be just a number.
In #NEVERAGAIN: A New Generation Draws The Line, David and Lauren describe getting politically engaged; calling out any politicians receiving money from the NRA; organizing and participating in demonstrations; meeting with Congressmen; and they sharing their actions to stimulate effective gun control. They wrote:
“After you spend a few hours hiding in a classroom while your friends and teachers are slaughtered, you can’t stop thinking about how insane this is and how to change it. Volunteer in political campaigns? Try to fix the mental health system? Fight the gun lobbyists? Push for comprehensive background check?
“We think you should. We hope you do. There is a whole world to change” (Hogg and Hogg, 2018).

1. The 19 year old shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was arrested at the scene and has pled guilty. What he has revealed already, and might reveal in the future, can add to the collection of case studies of school shooters. The larger the collection of case studies, the more solid are the scientific conclusions about what causes such tragic crimes. A large proportion of mass shooters cannot be fully debriefed because they commit suicide at the end of their rampage or are killed by law enforcement. It has long been known that almost all mass shootings at schools are by males. But school shootings are actually rare; and, statistically, being male is not considered a cause of school shootings.
It is commonly thought that a root cause of school shootings is due to mental health issues. This always comes up in mass shooter public media, articles, and books. However, the amount of a person’s mental health or ill health is a notoriously vague concept and is a fundamentally useless variable for predicting actual behavior and preventing tragedy.
I recommend setting aside the topics of mental issues or mental illness as causes of school shootings. Research shows they are not major. Here are several important myths and facts from Gun Violence and Mental Illness (Gold and Simon, Eds., 2016):
  • MYTH: “School gun violence is caused by people with severe mental illness “snapping.”
  • EVIDENCE-BASED FACT: “There is no known profile that allows the early identification of a mass killer.”
  • EVIDENCE-BASED FACT: “Only a small proportion of school shooters have a psychotic, mental illness. Mass shootings at school are not impulsive acts, but rather the product of careful planning.”
Setting aside the general issue of mental illness in mass shooters gets rid of a distraction to the main fact of terroristic, criminal behavior. All of our attention needs to be focused in many other important and difficult areas. Some of these are mentioned in the Parkland Manifesto.
2. Nikolas Cruz manifested a variety of emotional and behavioral problems. There is substantial documentation about his problems. Nikolas Cruz has been described as having a history of dangerous tendencies, which well could be true. But there were no agencies capable of ensuring his dangerous tendencies were treated and resolved. Most persons with “dangerous tendencies,” and especially those who are males, want to be free to be who they are; they are not likely to stay in mental health treatment on their own initiative. 
There exist authorized agencies such as the FBI, for example, that investigate persons thought to be dangerous for the purpose of preventing terroristic acts. Only the Federal Government can justify and implement the necessary intrusions for preventing terroristic murder—whether of politicians, racial groups, school children, or other targets. Is this intrusive into privacy rights? Of course. Can it interrupt a trajectory toward violence? Yes. There are consequences there are consequences which can be delivered only by courts. 
We citizens who do vote, are capable of motivating the three branches of government (President-Executive Branch, Congress-Legislative Branch, and Supreme Court-Judicial Branch). We need all three branches to be involved! It is they who must enact the law, policies, and procedures to begin reducing terroristic murder in the schools. 
Commercial airline flights are safer than driving. Responsible politicians and Federal judges took action. Imagine that! No one even argues about that any more. No one is polarized! Think about this: In 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland with the loss of 259 lives. Our Federal government responded to this wakeup call; the challenge got answered. Effective safety procedures got enacted. 
Australia once had a gun problem as serious as the U.S. But after a 1996 mass shooting in which a man killed 35 people and injured 23 more, the Australian politicians took action and passed a bipartisan gun plan called the National Firearms Agreement. After the stricter guns law went into effect there were no mass shootings for 18 years. A 2011 review of the results showed that homicides and suicides (1996 to 2003) dropped by 42% and 57%, respectively. Read about this in (McCann, 2019, pages 187-192). 
The three branches of our Federal Government can step up their game and prevent more murdered children. Both American State and Federal government and we citizens all working together could make change happen, but decade after decade one or more of the political parties, the branches of government, and groups of citizens negligently avoid doing the obvious!
3. Don’t skip this paragraph! 
David and Lauren Hogg’s book #NEVERAGAIN is remarkable because it’s not just depressing news about more kids and teachers murdered somewhere else.
Instead, with this well-written story we’re not merely readers but feel with them throughout their small book, identify with them as they feel danger, use their critical event skills, run and hide, hear the distant pop of gunshots, cram themselves into classroom storage rooms, use their cell phones, read a text that one of their friends was shot, share videos, and finally experience law enforcement taking them to safety. 
The children, David and Lauren, in writing their book provide all that should be necessary for American parents to rise up and expose and vote out of office the politicians who have UTTERLY FAILED to make American schools safe from mass shooters. 
Most Americans are OK with more gun control but there are some politicians who BRAG about their support for zero gun controls. They BRAG about getting “Constitutional carry.” They post on social media pictures of themselves and children grinning proudly with their AR-15 assault rifles. The Supreme Court would find this well within free speech rights.
4. Before the tragedy, Parkland High School had taken some preventative measures against a mass shootings. Reading this book we are reminded once again that when a criminal wants badly to penetrate our defense and succeeds, the cost of learning our weaknesses can be tragic.
And now in Uvalde County, Texas, on May 24, 2022, 19 children and two adults were killed at an elementary school. 
Before mass school shootings occur, few people are seriously worried about the security plan they worked to successfully implement. But during the tragedy of an attack, everything moves too fast and safety measures may work poorly if at all. Furthermore, mass shooters are known to plan their attack. In self-protection, the bad guy almost always “has the drop” on the good guy. The bad guy stalks his way in, knows he’ll need to overcome some barriers, and he wants to take his prey by surprise. 
According to the New York Times, since 1970 at least 200 K-12 children have been killed in mass shootings.

The most important fight for safe schools won’t be won by local school districts raising taxes to make schools physically hardened against mass shooters. 
No. Schools will become acceptably safe ONLY when all State governors, Congressmen, and Congresswomen begin to seriously care about the children who will be murdered at schools in coming months, in the coming years
How long will it take American politicians to become responsible leaders enough to legislate a broad array of effective interventions? 
As voters we should diligently search the economic and political influences stalemating gun control. There appear to be no effective leaders for gun control in Congress. One would think that school mass shootings would, as they say in politics, get some “traction.”
Anyone following news in Houston over the past several years can recognize, without needing any statistics, the obvious gun problems: weekly road rage shootings, young children finding loaded guns at home and unintentionally shooting siblings, intentional drive-by shootings, and seemingly random shootings. In one case police were able to find the man who simply shot up in the air and the bullet killed a person as it sped back to earth. Houston homicides have risen significantly in the past several years.

Finally, I want to highly recommend the book Enough Is Enough by Michelle McCann. She is both a professional illustrator and an author of children’s books. Her book is full of interesting illustrations and useful information. Teens as well as adults would likely enjoy the style.
Please forward this to others whom you feel would be receptive or at least willing to read it. Thanks!
        For references, see page BIBLIOGRAPHY / WORKS CITED
         - END -

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Roe v. Wade Worked For Fifty Years But . . .


. . . Republican Politicians have set up the Supreme Court and many State Governments to impose Republican Theology on everyone.


Halfway through a U.S. President’s four-year term of office the “midterm elections” happen.
On November 8, 2022 we citizens (age 18 and above) will vote and elect all 435 members of the House of Representatives--they serve two year terms; and voters will elect 35 of the 100 members of the Senate. Senators serve six year terms.

About 90% of Representatives and Senators will be re-elected even when the majority of public opinion is against what they stand for! Really? How can this be?
The most powerful reason is that voters are not voting yes or no on specific issues; instead, 90% of voters vote by Party loyalty. Also, as my previous blogs have highlighted, the politicians talk in slogans for promoting themselves and condemning their opponents. The politicians also communicate non-verbally. For example, they might smirk or pretend disappointment at their opponent’s personal or political actions. TV newsmen and women are also famous for their nonverbal “commentary.” 
Here are a few famous slogans:
  • “Come and Take It” (Used in first battle of the Texas revolution)
  • “LBJ for the USA” (Used in Lyndon Johnson’s presidential campaign) 
  • “The Buck Stops Here” (Used by President Truman) 
  • “Yes We Can” (Obama presidential campaign)
  • “Defeat the Washington Cartel” (An accusatory slogan used in Ted Cruz’s primary campaign)
Notice that the slogans are only generalities—they don’t inform us about the real, nitty gritty issues. 
Slogans are a part of routine leadership behavior. Parents, teachers, coaches, politicians, preachers and others use slogans to motivate people to do things. Successful politicians use slogans to get their most important messages into the heads and hearts of the voters. 
The politician’s goal is to get elected and do government as they and their political party believe it should be done.
But instead, when we the people’s majority disagree with the politicians, then we should get what our majority of voters want. And then we must monitor and insure that the Congress puts into effect the voice of the people.


Don’t Focus on Campaign Dra-ah-ah-mah.
Refer to my initial blogs for the discussion of how political hobbyism thrives on drama but is not effective for impacting politicians. But politicians command your attention and get your vote through drama. Myself, I never understood that process until reading Hersh's book Politics Is For Power.
The famous, conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer wrote about the ugliness of politics (as found in Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics, 2015). He said that every two years when the midterm elections come, the political “industry” conducts “wall -to-wall character assassination.” He goes on to say: 
“Politics is the only American industry whose participants devote their advertising budgets to the regular, public, savage undermining of one another. It is the only American industry whose participants devote prodigious sums to destroying whatever shred of allegiance any of them might once have won with their customers.”

Don’t Focus on highly publicized, serious, terribly polarized issues which have been turned into political footballs by the two major parties.
Prime examples include: criminalizing abortion, protecting gun rights, pretending the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent when in fact it was one of the most legitimate and error free.

Don’t focus on fighting for all or none, either-or, nothing in between, extremes of excessively permissive or excessively restrictive rights.

Statistically, the attitudes, the hopes and fears of Americans vary greatly but are in the middle range of the “bell shaped curve” of the normal distribution. It is to be expected that on many important issues, large groups of citizens would be strongly opposed to one another. 

Generally, from between 2015 and 2021, the percentages favoring pro-life or pro-choice were within five points of each other; and, which group’s percentage was greater or lesser flip-flopped from year to year. Here are graph results from Gallup:

Recently, a few states have been rapidly making laws restricting abortion anytime after conception—as if that moment were knowable. Clearly, politicians think and feel it is meaningful to define life as starting with a fertilized egg. However, the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade states that while the Texas law says life begins at conception, 
“We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at a consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer” (Harrison and Gilbert, 2003).

An important question needs to be answered by anyone trying to find a basis for deciding whether pro-choice or pro-life is right or wrong for them personally-- and for the county as a whole: 
Since for many years the majority of Americans have accepted and supported the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, why should the beliefs of fifty percent of the population forcefully take from the other fifty percent the legal availability of abortion?

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